What the Pagans said about Creation

The Greeks

As I read the works of the Greek philosophers, who lived between about 600-100 BC, I was amazed to discover primitive evolutionary theory and vast ages long before Darwin and modern assumptions. I encountered Epicurus who taught that there was no need of a God or gods, for the universe came about by a chance movement of atoms.The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia, translated and edited by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, introduction by D.S. Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing Company © 1994 Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer from the first century AD, could say, “we are so subject to chance that Chance herself takes the place of God; she proves that God is uncertain.” Pliny the Elder, Natural history, a selection, 2:22, p.13, Penguin Classics, translated with an introduction and notes by John F. Healy © 1991

I studied the fragments of Anaximander who taught that “humans originally resembled another type of animal, namely fish.”Jonathan Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy, p.72, Anaximander, from Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 1:6:1-7, Penguin Classics © 1987 There was Democritus who taught that primitive people began to speak with “confused” and “unintelligible” sounds but “gradually they articulated words.”Paul Cartledge, Democritus, fragment D/K5; GW1, p.20-21, Phoenix © 1998

Concerning the great ages of the universe, I discovered that Plato and many Greek philosophers held to the view that this present universe came about millions of years ago. Lactantius, writing in the fourth century AD, says:

“Plato and many others of the philosophers, since they were ignorant of the origin of all things, and of that primal period at which the world was made, said that many thousands of ages had passed since this beautiful arrangement of the world was completed….”Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 7:14, p.211 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.7, T&T Clark, Eerdmans Publishing Company © 1994 (an age was regarded as a thousand years)

Egyptians, Babylonians and Hindus

Research reveals that the Greeks borrowed some of these ideas from the Babylonians, Egyptians and Hindus whose philosophies extended back centuries before. For example, one Hindu belief was that Brahman (the universe) spontaneously evolved by itself like a seed, which expanded and formed all that exists about 4.3 billion years ago.From the Mundaka Upanishad, Understanding Hinduism, p.5-9, http://www.hinduism.org.za/creation.htm These Hindus believed in an eternal universe that had cycles of rebirth, destruction and dormancy, known as “kalpas”, rather like Hoyle’s “Steady State Theory”. We also read in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, that the god Krishna says, “I am the source from which all creatures evolve.”The Bhagavad Gita, Divine Splendour 10:8, p.142, Arkana Penguin Edition, translated and introduction by Eknath Easwaran, © 1985

The early Christian Church Fathers constantly argued with the pagans about the age of the earth, or about the age of civilization. They were unanimous about the earth being created about 6,000 years before (in their time). Some of the Babylonians claimed that they had astronomical inscriptions on clay tablets for 730,000 years; others, like Berosus, claimed 490,000 years for the inscriptions.Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 7:191, p.105, Penguin Classics The Egyptians claimed that they had understood astronomy for more than 100,000 years.Augustine, City of God, 18:40, p.815, translated by Henry Bettenson, Penguin Classics © 1972

In about AD 160 Theophilus, a Christian leader, wrote about the problem of the pagan long ages and mentioned Plato’s 200,000 year period between the Flood and his time, and Apollonius the Egyptian’s calculation of at least 153,075 years since creation.Theophilus to Autolycus, 3:26, p.119, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.2, T&T Clark, Eerdmans © 1994

It seems as if there is nothing new under the sun.

Read the stories of 5 PhD atheist scientists who came to believe in the Creator.